On the other hand, local and state law enforcement agencies seemingly don’t have the resources or competence to prevent glaring criminal justice errors. Here in Utah and around the country, stories of wrongful arrest, wrongful conviction and wrongful incarceration are unacceptably common.
One of the more recent examples comes from Florida, where sheriffs arrested an 18-year-old student, charged him with a sex crime and locked him up for 35 days. Only then would they learn that they had arrested the wrong teenager simply because he happened to have the same name as the intended suspect.
At some point in 2013, a girl who was under the age of 12 reported that she had had sex with a teenager around Halloween the previous year. She identified him by name and told investigators where he went to school.
Somehow, investigators failed to note that there were two students, born in the same year, with that first and last name at the school. Only their middle names were different. Nonetheless, sheriffs arrested the wrong one.
The victim also knew both of these young men, but she was not shown photos to confirm which one had sexually assaulted her. When the wrongfully accused teen first appeared in court, he figured out that the mistake was probably related to his name. He called his mother, and she reached out to investigators. It was only then that the victim was shown a photo lineup.
It’s probably not the first time that these two teenagers were mixed up because of their shared names, but context is incredibly important here. This wasn’t like getting back the wrong homework or receiving someone else’s mail. These were serious criminal charges and time spent in jail, both based on a series of easily preventable errors and shoddy investigative work.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, please don’t take chances or put too much blind faith in the criminal justice system. You need the help of an experienced and competent criminal defense attorney.
Source: The Florida Times-Union, “Name mix-up in sexual battery case sends wrong Clay County teen to jail for 35 days,” Topher Sanders, Feb. 25, 2014